Humanity has progressed to a point in history where the old-fashionedwood fires are being snuffed out in favor of more efficient and economical options. There’s no denying the bold statements of a traditional fireplace: The crackling embers, genuine wood smell, rising smoke and attention to building the fire are all timeless reminders of good days long past. Still, they’re the costliest way to bring that family-oriented comfort to the living room, and not everyone is okay with the persistent attention that an open fire requires. One might even argue that an open fire belongs outdoors with a tent or three pitched nearby, and that’s not a bad argument on its lonesome.
For these reasons and more, homeowners have shifted their attention to electric and gas fireplaces to keep the lights on, the heat running and the bills low. These contemporary solutions lack the pomp and bluster of their traditional inspiration, but they make their own modern statements about safety, convenience, and the consequences of playing with real fire. Here, we’ll review the differences between the two types and determine which situations they’re best suited for. Let’s turn up the heat!
Benefits of Electric Fireplaces
• Relatively affordable initial purchase price and operating cost
• Can be placed anywhere
Nobody should be surprised to see that an electric-powered variant of the old wood-burner exists today. This variant can utilize lights, screens and other effects to create the illusion of fire, which is usually animated behind a sheet of glass. A heating element is buried deep inside the circuitry, keeping the system cool to the touch and child-friendly. The heat is distributed with a blower, which can often be adjusted in conjunction with or independently from the heat setting. The “fire” can also be turned on and off in many electric fireplaces without affecting the heat setting.
You can buy one of these right off the shelves of most big-box stores and set it anywhere in your home, winning points for convenience right off the bat. It often requires no actual setup, being much like a PC or game console in that you unbox your newfangled device and set it wherever you want: living room, bedroom, kitchen and even bathroom. The electric variant also sips power compared to its gas-driven brethren, keeping with the streamlined modern feel that one should expect from an electric appliance. Many also include a remote, so you can control it from the comfort of your love seat or bed while it keeps the room toasty.
Generally speaking, electric fireplaces present uniform heat distribution for small spaces compared to more traditional fireplace designs. The other issue that electric fireplaces avoid is the inclusion of vents, which would otherwise waste large amounts of heat over the course of a day and suck warm indoor air to the frigid outdoors, reducing wintry heating efficiency. It’s also worth adding that available heating modes typically include 500-1,500W settings, offering flexibility as a mild space heater or for quickly thawing frozen hands and feet after a night out in the cold.
Benefits of Gas Fireplaces
• Moderate initial purchase and operating cost
• Fast and efficient heating for a large space
• Combines the authenticity of wood fireplaces with the safety and affordability of electric ones
The gas fireplace is good for different reasons. For those who lean toward the authenticity of wood-fed fireplaces but don’t want to pay through the nose for a setup that demands constant maintenance, the gas variety brings a formidable compromise to your household.
Gas fireplaces do have one immediate drawback in that they sometimes require a professional to install, depending on the style and where you’re looking to have it placed. The cases that require a professional will usually involve gas lines and outgoing vents or chimneys, and these types will be just as complex to dismantle, so it’s wise to carefully decide where you want yours set. However, this isn’t necessary for all gas fireplaces, as some of them do allow you to rearrange their positioning with a little work. That isn’t what you’d call a significant disadvantage, since fireplaces are usually stationary appliances to begin with.
These gas-fed warmers do a wonderful job of getting a large space warm in a matter of minutes. They output a great deal of heat in a short time, and just as inviting is the reality of its source: That’s a real fire! Most gas fireplaces will have an enclosed panel on the front that showcases actual flames from the gas feed, which can be fueled either by propane or methane. For the amount of heat produced, the cost of said fuels is arguably more efficient than electric fireplaces, especially for larger homes. The newer vent-free fireplaces also allow you to install them without a flue, which means you can dispense heat without the drawback of losing any of it to the outside.
The Bottom Line
Electric fireplaces are a versatile option, safer and simpler but more effective for small spaces and directed heating. If you plan to heat a personal space, bedroom or section of a large living room, this type will be hot with you.
While gas fireplaces are on the more complex side, they offer greater functionality and stick closer to the traits of a genuine fireplace. They’re also the more cost-efficient option for heating larger spaces. These are excellent if you want a more stately design language.